Experts say next pandemic ‘Disease X’ is on its way, could kill at least 50 million people
Global health experts delivered a sombre warning, suggesting that the 'Disease X' could kill at least 50 million people.
Global health experts have raised concerns about the possibility of even more devastating pandemics in the future. Date Kate Bingham, who chaired the UK’s vaccine taskforce, delivered a sombre warning, suggesting that the next pandemic could kill at least 50 million people.
She also said that the world had been fortunate that COVID-19 was not more lethal.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has given this anticipated next pandemic “Disease X” and indicated that it may already be on its way.
COVID-19, which emerged in 2019, has already claimed nearly seven million lives globally, according to WHO data.
Dame Kate Bingham cautioned that the next pandemic Disease X could be over seven times as deadly as COVID 19. She also mentioned that the next pandemic might originate from an existing virus.
Drawing parallels with the catastrophic 1918–19 flu pandemic that killed over 50 million people, she said, “Today, we could expect a similar death toll from one of the many viruses that already exist. Today, there are more viruses busily replicating and mutating than all the other life forms on our planet combined.”
She added, “Not all of them pose a threat to humans, of course, but plenty do.” Scientists are currently monitoring 25 virus families, each consisting of thousands of individual viruses, any of which could mutate into a severe pandemic. This surveillance does not account for viruses that may jump from animals to humans.
Dame Kate explained, “With COVID, the vast majority of people infected with the virus managed to recover. Imagine that Disease X is as infectious as measles with the fatality rate of Ebola, which is 67 percent. Somewhere in the world, it’s replicating, and sooner or later, somebody will start feeling sick.”
Meanwhile, in the UK, scientists have already initiated vaccine development efforts targeting an unidentified ‘Disease X.’ This research is being conducted at the high-security Porton Down laboratory complex in Wiltshire and involves over 200 scientists.
They are focusing on animal viruses with the potential to infect humans and spread rapidly worldwide. Pathogens under scrutiny include bird flu, monkeypox, and hantavirus, which is transmitted by rodents.
Professor Dame Jenny Harris, head of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), stressed that factors such as climate change and population shifts are increasing the likelihood of future pandemics. She emphasised the need for proactive preparedness measures.